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What is an Optical Dispenser (Optician) and What Do They Do?

When it comes to eye care, there are often a team of professionals who work together to make sure you are getting the best services possible. If you are getting a regular eye test, you will be more than familiar with an optometrist and what they do. If you have ever had a more serious eye problem, like advanced glaucoma or cataracts, you will be familiar with an ophthalmologist, also known as an eye surgeon.

If you have ever had glasses fitted, then you will have worked with a dispensing optician, although you may not have known it, as they often have a different name. In Australia, we have chosen to use the term optical dispenser instead of optician, as it is less likely to get confused with an optometrist.

Keep reading to find out more about optical dispensers, why we use this term in Australia and what role optical dispensers play in your eye care team.

What is an optical dispenser?

An optical dispenser is an eye care professional who is responsible for fitting and dispensing glasses. The term optician originated in the UK, where it relates to eye care professionals who both prescribe and dispense glasses.

As this definition is very closely related to optometry and is often confused for it, optician is not a term we use in Australia. We instead use the terms optometrists and optical dispensers to differentiate between those who perform eye exams and prescribe lenses (optometrists), and those who interpret prescriptions and assist customers with fitting their glasses (optical dispensers).

Optical dispenser

What does an optical dispenser do?

An optical dispenser has a range of responsibilities. These include fitting corrective lenses for patients, measuring the distance between a patient's pupils to ensure the best fit for glasses, and offering advice on selecting the right frames. Optical dispensers do not prescribe glasses or diagnose eye conditions.

Optical dispensers play an important role in helping an optometrist and ophthalmologist, to meet patient needs and provide the appropriate treatments.

At Oscar Wylee, we have a dedicated and passionate team of eye care professionals in store that can help with your vision needs. If you need an eye test for instance, you can book online and our optometrists, optical dispensers and front of house staff, will work together to sort out any prescriptions or eye care that you need.

What does an optical dispenser do on a daily basis?

What an optical dispenser will do day to day is dependent upon what environment they work in. If they work in an optical dispensary, their responsibilities will include filling prescriptions, adjusting frames and lenses, and giving advice to patients. If they work at an optometrists office, they will perform similar duties, but may work closer with an eye care team including the optometrists. An optical dispenser may also work in other eye care centres or even laboratories.

Source: The Australasian College of Optical Dispensing (ACOD)

If an optical dispenser is working in a store like Oscar Wylee, where we provide both optometry services and optical dispensing, the day to day will often revolve around patients and customer service. They will make sure everyone’s eye care needs are met by fitting glasses, giving advice and making adjustments to lenses or frames.

Other duties may include:

  • Ordering lenses for the store.
  • Checking that lenses or frames are free from defects.
  • Repairing damaged lenses or frames.

Looking for your next pair of glasses?

Find your nearest Oscar Wylee store and our friendly staff can assist you.

How to become an optical dispenser?

To start a career as an optical dispenser, you are required to attain a qualification in the optometry field. You will also need the appropriate technical training to develop practical skills.

What do you need to study to become an optical dispenser?

You will need to complete a course to become an optical dispenser. In Australia, The Australasian College of Optical Dispensing (ACOD) offers a Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing which will provide you with the necessary qualifications.

You could also complete the training via an institution like TAFE NSW, that offers the same certificate. This schooling and training is followed by a period of work experience or an apprenticeship to get hands on knowledge.

How long does it take to become an optical dispenser?

To become an optical dispenser, it will take up to two years. The completion of a Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing for instance, can take anywhere from 12 to 18 months. If you study part time, it may take longer. You will then do the required work experience before entering into the workplace as an optical dispenser.

Source: The Australasian College of Optical Dispensing (ACOD)

What skills does an optical dispenser need?

An optical dispenser will need to have a range of skills to excel in the field. The most important are:

  • A good knowledge of eye health, such as vision abnormalities and disorders.
  • A comprehensive understanding of how lenses and frames work.
  • Ability to interpret a glasses prescription.
  • Ability to measure a pupillary distance.
  • Good communication skills to work alongside an optometrist and other eye care staff.

As optical dispensing is a customer facing role, you will also need good customer service skills.

Oscar Wylee optical dispensers

Here at Oscar Wylee, we have in-store dispensing staff that can help you with your lens and frames needs. Find your nearest Oscar Wylee store on our store locator page, and come in and see us for more information.

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All major health funds accepted in store.

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